Close of Service Conference

Our M31 group at theCOS conference (photo credit: David Jarmul)

As we begin to wind down our service here in Moldova, the M31 group (the 31st group of volunteers in Moldova) met this past week for our Close of Service (COS) conference. The conference was held at a camp-style resort near the forest. This conference serves to prepare us to wrap up our time here in Moldova and reintegrate into the United States again. It was definitely an emotional time for us, as we begin thinking about how we will say goodbye to our communities, partners, students, and host families and reflected on our service here.

We started off the conference by thinking about the successes we’ve had and our accomplishments and favorite memories in Moldova. We also discussed the close-out procedures (medical, administrative, etc.) as well as readjustment to life in the USA. At the end, we met with our separate programs and discussed the things we need to do in the next 2 to 3 months in our sites as we prepare to and begin to say our goodbyes. For example, we need to wrap up any projects or meet with our partners to transition responsibilities to them. We also need to create a plan of how we want to say goodbye to the various groups of individuals that have been a part of our lives the past two years.

Volunteers at the conference

I think most of us are struggling with the conflicting emotions this time brings up. I’m sad to leave behind my partners, students, and especially my host family, but excited to go home and be with my family and friends. Some moments I feel very ready to leave, but other days I can’t imagine actually leaving. To give an idea of some of the things we discussed, here are a few sample questions we were asked to consider and my responses to them:

In what ways have I changed? This one is hard to answer. I think I’m much more patient, flexible, and deal with random constant changes much better. However, in some ways I have far less patience, especially when I watch the news in the United States. I’ve gained numerous skills and, even more than before, really appreciate honesty, directness, and responsibility.

What are the critical aspects about my experience that I want to share with my family and friends? I have plenty of humorous stories to share, but more than anything I hope to share about the relationships I have made, especially with my host family. I’d love to also share the aspects of Moldovan culture and life that I love- their love of dance (the hora), Moldovan music, big celebrations for everything big or small, their value of family, etc.

What activities am I looking forward to the most when I return? I want to spend time with family and friends. I’m really looking forward to doing a lot of outdoor activities this summer, like biking, hiking, and kayaking. I can’t wait to eat ALL the food (though not all at once of course) and pick blueberries (which sadly don’t really exist here).

What will I miss about Moldova? I will miss my host family, my students, my partner teachers, my colleagues, the sunflowers, the gorgeous flower gardens, the dancing, the singing, and so much more.